Scroll down to read the most recent posts.

 

Please consider supporting my work here at Behind the Black. I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands. Instead, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.

 

You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:

 

1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.

 

2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.
 

3. A Paypal Donation:

4. A Paypal subscription:


5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
 
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

 

You can also support me by buying one of my books, as noted in the boxes interspersed throughout the webpage or shown in the menu above. And if you buy the books through the ebookit links, I get a larger cut and I get it sooner.

Starliner return delayed again, until July

NASA tonight announced that it is once again delaying the undocking from ISS and the return to Earth of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, carrying two astronauts, with the return date a as-yet unspecified date in July.

The move off Wednesday, June 26, deconflicts Starliner’s undocking and landing from a series of planned International Space Station spacewalks while allowing mission teams time to review propulsion system data.

It seems to me that they have decided the more time Starliner spends in space right now, the more data they can gather about its flightworthiness in the future. Remember, the first manned Dragon demo mission stayed at ISS for more than two months.

Their approach however — announcing small delays over and over again — is extremely poor PR. It makes it seem as if the capsule’s various issues — thrusters, helium leaks, and valves — are a more serious than I think they are.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. All editions can also be purchased direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from the author (hardback $29.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $6.00). Just send an email to zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

Family whose home was damaged by NASA battery ejected from ISS files claim

The Florida family whose home was damaged when a battery that NASA had ejected from ISS smashed through the roof of its house has now filed an $80,000 claim with the space agency.

Alejandro Otero, owner of the Naples, Florida, home struck by the debris, was not home when part of a battery pack from the International Space Station crashed through his home on March 8. His son Daniel, 19, was home but escaped injury. NASA has confirmed the 1.6-pound object, made of the metal alloy Inconel, was part of a battery pack jettisoned from the space station in 2021.

An attorney for the Otero family, Mica Nguyen Worthy, told Ars that she has asked NASA for “in excess of $80,000” for non-insured property damage loss, business interruption damages, emotional and mental anguish damages, and the costs for assistance from third parties. “We intentionally kept it very reasonable because we did not want it to appear to NASA that my clients are seeking a windfall,” Worthy said.

No lawsuit has been filed so far, as the family is trying to work this out with NASA amicably, and also help set a precedent for future such incidents. NASA in turn gave the family a claim form and is now reviewing the form they submitted.

The article I think is incorrect when it states that this incident “falls outside the Space Liability Convention” (which was written under the Outer Space Treaty) because the debris didn’t come from a foreign country but was launched and de-orbited by an American government agency. The Outer Space Treaty makes whoever launches anything in space liable for any damages. If NASA attempts to fight this it will be violating not only the language but the spirit of the treaty.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

June 21, 2024 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay. This post is also an open thread. I welcome my readers to post any comments or additional links relating to any space issues, even if unrelated to the links below.

 

 

 

 

Emerson College in Boston leads the way in supporting Hamas and losing enrollment

Emerson College: Where only leftist pro-Hamas speech allowed
Emerson College: Where only
leftist pro-Hamas speech is allowed

This week Emerson College in Boston announced that, because of a significant and unexpected drop in enrollment for the coming year, it is going to have to lay off staff as well as not fill a number of vacant positions.

In an email to college’s faculty and staff, the college’s president Jay Bernhardt obliquely mentioned what could be the main cause of this lack of new students:

We attribute this reduction to multiple factors, including national enrollment trends away from smaller private institutions, an enrollment deposit delay in response to the new FAFSA rollout, student protests targeting our yield events and campus tours, and negative press and social media generated from the demonstrations and arrests, [emphasis mine]

To put Bernhardt’s oblique comments into clarity, Emerson was hit in April with a gigantic pro-Hamas occupation that took over a local public right-of-way. The university’s response to this take-over was, to put it mildly, very supportive of the mob, even after the police moved in to clear the road and arrested 118. Here is what Bernhardt wrote to the Emerson community after those arrests:
» Read more

Leaving Earth cover

There are now only 2 copies left of the now out-of-print hardback of Leaving Earth. The price for an autographed copy of this rare collector's item is now $200 (plus $7 shipping).

 

To get your copy while the getting is good, please send a $207 check (which includes $7 shipping) payable to Robert Zimmerman to
 

Behind The Black, c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

 

Leaving Earth is also available as an inexpensive ebook!

 

Leaving Earth: Space Stations, Rival Superpowers, and the Quest for Interplanetary Travel, can be purchased as an ebook everywhere for only $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.

 

If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big oppressive tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Winner of the 2003 Eugene M. Emme Award of the American Astronautical Society.

"Leaving Earth is one of the best and certainly the most comprehensive summary of our drive into space that I have ever read. It will be invaluable to future scholars because it will tell them how the next chapter of human history opened." -- Arthur C. Clarke

Spanish high altitude balloon company releases artwork of its proposed passenger capsule

EOS-X's balloon capsule
Artist rendering of EOS-X’s balloon capsule

The Spanish high altitude balloon company EOS-X has now released several artist renderings of the proposed capsule that will take passengers on a high altitude balloon flight.

According to the company, the first flights will occur sometime late next year, lifting off from either Seville in Spain or Abu Dabi in the Middle East. The proposed ticket prices range from $160K to $214K, with flights lasting about five hours.

All of this sounds highly speculative, especially because EOS-X in November 2023 was one of two balloon companies indicted by a Spanish court for stealing its balloon concepts from a third company. I have not seen the final decision in that court case, so it is unclear what the long term ramifications might be. It could be that the company which sued, Zero-2, has taken over EOS-X.

Italy approves new space law

Italy’s Council of Ministers yesterday approved language for a new space law and five year space economic plan, designed to regulate the commercial space operations inside Italy as well by Italian companies operating in foreign lands.

In addition to mandating authorization for national and foreign operators who intend to conduct space activities from Italian soil, the law will also regulate the activities of national operators intending to conduct business from foreign territories. One element of regulatory compliance outlined within the law addresses the management of space incidents. Operators will be required to secure insurance coverage of up to €100 million per incident. There are, however, provisions allowing for the potential for lower caps in cases of reduced risk.

More details about the law can be found here. It gives regulatory authority to Italy’s space agency ASI, while also establishing a five-year government program (funding not disclosed) to stimulate the space sector.

The released details are insufficient to find out the real consequences of this law. If written correctly, the regulations could actually make it easier for the private sector to prosper. If not, it could instead squelch new startups as well as existing companies.

SpaceX announces a mini-version of Starlink designed for backpackers

SpaceX today unveiled what it calls Starlink Mini, a smaller version of the Starlink antenna that can fit inside a backpack.

Early Starlink customers were invited to purchase the Starlink Mini kit for $599, according to an invitation sent to customers and viewed by TechCrunch. That’s $100 more than the standard Starlink kit. They were also given the option to bundle Mini Roam service with their existing service plan for an additional $30 per month, though the data is capped at 50 gigabytes per month.

That would mean a Starlink residential customer on the standard service plan would spent $150 month. SpaceX aims to reduce the price of the kit, it said in the invitation. As of now, there is no stand-alone Mini Roam plan.

The unit weighs only 2.5 pounds, with the first deliveries arriving in July. It is designed specifically for travelers who want a reliable internet connection wherever they go.

Nova Scotia spaceport approved for new government grants

The proposed Nova Scotia spaceport run by the company Maritime Services has now been approved to apply for new government grants for its proposed satellite processing facility.

The Nova Scotia CITC is an annualized reimbursement program designed by the Government of Nova Scotia to drive economic growth and incentivize development within Nova Scotia. The program provides significant financial advantages to eligible corporations that invest in infrastructure and capital equipment for approved projects located in Nova Scotia.

Maritime Launch has received approval for an initial qualification of up to $7.5M in reimbursements under the CITC for the satellite processing facility project. Reimbursement is eligible to begin at the start of the construction of the satellite processing facility, planned for late 2024 and follows approval of a separate application in September 2023 for a project at Spaceport Nova Scotia.

Maritime Launch has been around since 2016 but as of this moment it is unclear when the first orbital launch from the spaceport will occur. Initially the plan had been to provide both spaceport and a Ukrainian rocket for satellite makers, but the Ukraine war ended that plan. Now the spaceport offers its facility to any rocket company, but so far no launch company has yet signed a launch deal.

New debris from another Dragon service module discovered in North Carolina

NASA has now confirmed that debris discovered in scattered places in North Carolina several weeks ago came from the trunk section of a Dragon service module that was supposed to burn up in the atmosphere.

Between late May and early June, News 13 spoke with three mountain residents who stumbled upon what some believed to be debris from space. One piece found on a remote trail in Haywood County was three feet high and so heavy it had to be carried out using a lawn mower. Two smaller objects were found by residents in Franklin and Jackson County.

It is believed the material came from a Dragon cargo capsule that undocked and returned to Earth on April 30, 2024, its service module supposedly burning up in the atmosphere.

This is the second time in the past few months that debris from a Dragon service module trunk has been recovered on Earth. SpaceX nor NASA can no longer assume it will burn up completely, and are required to instead to de-orbit that service module more precisely over the ocean, not only because the Outer Space Treaty demands it but because crashing debris carries serious liabilities that SpaceX especially does not want to face.

Japan’s space agency reveals it was hacked in 2023

Japan’s space agency JAXA today revealed that beginning in 2023 and periodically into this year it has been attacked repeatedly by hackers, with data from more than 10,000 files stolen.

Attacks occurred in June 2023 and multiple times a year, although investigations are ongoing regarding whether more information was stolen in this year’s attacks.

In addition to internal data, potentially compromised entities include NASA, Toyota Motor Corp., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and the Defense Ministry, with which JAXA has nondisclosure agreements. Information from numerous aerospace and defense-related organizations and companies was also exposed.

JAXA stated that no sensitive information related to national security or rocket technologies was stolen in last year’s breach. Personal data of approximately 5,000 JAXA personnel and employees from partner companies was used to access the Microsoft 365 accounts of JAXA executives.

It appears JAXA officials only found out about the attack when police told them about it months after the June 2023 attack. Agency officials now say no sensitive rocket or satellite data was stolen. Instead, it appears the attack targeted personal communications as well as research facilities.

The report provided no indication about the source of these attacks, but noted that a 2016 attack is known to have come from China.

SpaceX launches commercial geosynchronous satellite for SES

SpaceX today successfully launched a commercial geosynchronous satellite for the Luxembourg company SES, its Falcon 9 lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

The first stage completed its ninth flight, landing successfully on a drone ship in the Atlantic.

The leaders in the 2024 launch race:

64 SpaceX
27 China
8 Russia
8 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads the world combined in successful launches, 75 to 41, while SpaceX by itself still leads the entire world, including other American companies, 64 to 52.

June 20, 2024 Quick space links

Courtesy of BtB’s stringer Jay. This post is also an open thread. I welcome my readers to post any comments or additional links relating to any space issues, even if unrelated to the links below.

 

 

 

 

The intellectual dishonesty of Democrats proven once again

Democrat Neil Baron, either very lazy or a enthused slanderer
Democrat Neil Baron, either very lazy
or a enthused slanderer

The Cleveland Plain Dealer was forced on June 18, 2024 to retract entirely a June 9th op-ed written by Democrat lawyer and political consultant Neil Baron when it was threatened with slander and libel lawsuits from three FBI whistleblowers because of the blatent false accusations Baron included in this op-ed.

Baron’s op-ed, which can still read here, was mostly a partisan attack on Congressman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and his effort to expose the FBI’s non-stop abuse of power. In doing so, however, Baron accused three FBI whistle-blowers of doing things they did not do.

George Hill, advocated dismantling the FBI, claiming it’s better to “die than to have domestic intelligence.” Another, Garret O’Boyle, said Jan. 6 was a “set up” by Democrats and the FBI. He posted a video of himself at the Capitol sporting body armor, a gas mask and an AR-15 rifle. A third, Marcus Allen, assaulted several Capitol Police on Jan. 6, and claimed the insurrection was a government scheme.

As noted in the newspaper’s apology and retraction it admitted Baron’s accusations were simply false.

Allen was not a participant in the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington D.C. and has never been accused of assaulting Capitol Police officers during the insurrection. O’Boyle did not claim the insurrection was set up by Democrats or post video of himself at the Capitol wearing body armor, a gas mask and an AR-15 rifle. While George Hill has been critical of his former employer, he did not make a quote attributed to him in the column or advocate for dismantling the FBI.

In other words, Baron was making these accusations up, and the newspaper did no fact-checking prior to publication, accepting those bald-faced lies without question. » Read more

Rocket Lab launches five smallsats for French commercial constellation

Rocket Lab today successfully launched the first five smallsats of a 25-satellite “Internet-of-Things” commercial constellation of the French company Kinéis.

This was Rocket Lab’s 50th launch, putting this company among a very small club of private companies, which includes SpaceX and ULA. Governments and government-owned entities (such as Arianespace) have done more, but that is going to change in the coming years as private enterprise takes over.

The leaders in the 2024 launch race:

63 SpaceX (with another launch scheduled for later today)
27 China
8 Russia
8 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads the world combined in successful launches, 74 to 41, while SpaceX by itself still leads the entire world, including other American companies, 63 to 52.

June 20, 2024 Zimmerman/Pratt on Texas podcast

Robert Pratt has now posted the second 30-minute part of an hour-long interview with me last week, as part of his Pratt on Texas podcast, discussing a whole range of recent blacklist stories, and their larger context within our sadly presently debased culture.

The first part of the interview can be found here.

Part 2 of that podcast is embedded below. It can also be listened to here.
» Read more

2,000-year-old wine found in Roman tomb

According to tests done on a liquid found in an urn in a Roman tomb discovered in Spain in 2019, that liquid is an ancient white wine that likely came from that region.

As part of that ritual, the skeletal remains of one of the men were immersed in a liquid inside a glass funerary urn. This liquid, which over time has acquired a reddish hue, has been preserved since the first century AD, and a team with the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cordoba, led by Professor José Rafael Ruiz Arrebola, in collaboration with the City of Carmona, has identified it as the oldest wine ever discovered, thus topping the Speyer wine bottle discovered in 1867 and dated to the fourth century AD, preserved in the Historical Museum of Pfalz (Germany).

It is unclear from the report whether anyone has actually tasted the wine, which even if drinkable is tainted by the bones and the cremated ashes of that one individual.

Update on SpaceX activities leading to the next Superheavy/Starship orbital test flight

Link here. Lots happening, including fueling and static fire tests of Starship prototype #26 (which will not fly) and major changes on Starship prototype #30, which is slated to make that fifth test flight:

Ship 30 continues to receive upgrades, preparing it for Flight Five. Now, with most of the older tiles removed [18,000 total], new similar-sized tiles are being attached to Ship 30. These tiles could potentially have a different formula, which would make them more resistant to heat while holding a similar size.

Also, an ablative pyron layer is being added to the hot spots where Ship 30 is most likely infiltrated by plasma during entry. Pyron is used in the Falcon 9’s engine bay and is a material that SpaceX knows and trusts.

SpaceX has said it is targeting July for the flight, and the FAA has said the company’s launch license will allow it to launch whenever it is ready, with no FAA red tape to stand in the way.

Blue Origin signs deal to fly Nigerian on New Shepard suborbital flight

As part of what is now a general pattern of using New Shepard suborbital flights for feel-good public relations stunts, Blue Origin has now signed a deal to fly a Nigerian into space sometime this year or next.

A lot of government and charitable entities appear involved in this deal.

The Space Exploration & Research Agency (SERA) [private charity] and the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) [Nigeria’s space agency] have signed a partnership agreement to execute an exploration project that will send the first Nigerian citizen into space. This collaboration marks a significant milestone in Nigeria’s space exploration journey and opens new opportunities for scientific research and technological advancement.

Under this partnership, SERA, a global space agency dedicated to increasing access to space for all nations, will reserve a seat on an upcoming Blue Origin New Shepard suborbital spaceflight for a Nigerian citizen.

According to a statement shared with Technext, this is part of a broader SERA-led initiative, in partnership with Blue Origin, to send six individuals from nations historically underrepresented in space exploration.

In addition, a Nigerian non-profit, Learnspace, appears to have played a part in working out this deal. As for SERA, I suspect its funding mostly comes from Jeff Bezos or Blue Origin.

Either way, the deal appears to open the competition to any Nigerian citizen, with the final decision partly influenced by public voting.

German rocket startup Isar raises another €65 million in investment capital

The German rocket startup Isar Aerospace has now raised an additional €65 million in investment capital, bringing the total invested in the company to €400 million ($428 million).

Interestingly, a major backer appears to be a governmental entity.

The funding round extension received significant involvement from the NATO Innovation Fund (NIF), a venture capital fund backed by 24 NATO allies focused on addressing challenges in defence, security, and resilience.

…In addition to NIF, the funding round included contributions from G3T, 10x Group, Besant Capital, Finadvice Med HOLDINGS, LP&E, and existing investors Lakestar, Earlybird, Airbus Ventures, Bayern Kapital, and UVC Partners.

Isar has deals to launch its proposed Spectrum orbital rocket from French Guiana and from the new commercial spaceport in Andoya, Norway. The company however initially promised in 2021 that its first launch from Andoya would take place in 2022, with no launch occurring. In fact, of the three German rocket startups, Isar is the only one to so far not do a test launch of any kind, and it is presently unclear when that first orbital test launch of Spectrum will occur.

Nini – OverMortal

An evening pause: The music appears to come from a video game, which this video heavily promotes. No matter. She performs it using both a classic Chinese instrument and a modern electric guitar, and the contrast is striking.

Hat tip Judd Clark.

Pro-Hamas lefty arrested for several arson attacks on UC-Berkeley campus

Casey Goonan, a pro-Hamas activist arrested for arson
Casey Goonan, a pro-Hamas activist
arrested for arson

If you want to know the mentality of the pro-Hamas movement across America and largely centered on many “elite” campuses, you need only look at the story of Casey Goonan. Goonan is a 34-year-old long time leftist activist who was previously arrested in September 2023 for “felony vandalism & resisting arrest” (he had used a hammer to destroy the sign of a hotel at the protest site).

He has now been arrested again as the prime suspect in a series of four arson attacks on the UC-Berkeley campus in the past three weeks.

On Monday evening [June 17], Cal Fire announced the arrest of 34-year-old Casey Robert Goonan “in connection with the firebombing attack of a UC Berkeley Police Department vehicle and three other arson attacks on UC Berkeley campus during the month of June.”

Goonan was arrested Monday “following a comprehensive investigation” by Cal Fire’s Office of the State Fire Marshal Arson and Bomb Unit, UC Berkeley police, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Goonan is now facing multiple felony charges, authorities said, including “the possession and use of destructive devices and multiple counts of arson.” He is in custody at Santa Rita Jail with a bail of $1 million, according to Monday’s statement.

In all these arson attacks, the firebomber (allegedly Goonan) released anonymous statements claiming credit. The first such statement, proudly admitted to firebombing a UC-Berkeley police vehicle and concluded as follows:
» Read more

June 18, 2024 Zimmerman/Space Show podcast

David Livingston has now posted my two-hour appearance on the Space Show last night, with the podcast available for download here.

The show was especially enlivened by the many phone calls and excellent questions from listeners. Thank you.

I must also thank Charles Lurio (of the Lurio Report) for phoning me personally after the show to clue me into some centrifuge research on ISS that I was unaware of. Thank you Charles!

Astronomers see a quiet galaxy become active for the first time

Using a number of space- and ground-based telescopes, astronomers have for the first time seen in real time what had previously been a very inactive and quiet galaxy become active and energetic, suggesting a major event at the galaxy’s center had taken place to change its behavior.

From the abstract of the paper [pdf]:

We conclude that the variations observed in SDSS1335+0728 could be either explained by a ∼ 10 6 M ⊙ AGN [a one million solar mass black hole] that is just turning on or by an exotic tidal disruption event (TDE). If the former is true, SDSS1335+0728 is one of the strongest cases of an AGN observed in the process of activating. If the latter were found to be the case, it would correspond to the longest and faintest TDE ever observed (or another class of still unknown nuclear transient). Future observations of SDSS1335+0728 are crucial to further understand its behaviour.

As noted in the press release:

Some phenomena, like supernova explosions or tidal disruption events — when a star gets too close to a black hole and is torn apart — can make galaxies suddenly light up. But these brightness variations typically last only a few dozen or, at most, a few hundreds of days. SDSS1335+0728 is still growing brighter today, more than four years after it was first seen to ‘switch on’. Moreover, the variations detected in the galaxy, which is located 300 million light-years away in the constellation Virgo, are unlike any seen before.

If the central black hole is switching from being quiet to active, this galaxy is providing astronomers critical information for understanding such changes. This is particularly important to us here in the Milky Way, which has a very inactive central supermassive black hole weighing about 4 million solar masses. It would be very useful to understand what would cause it to become active, especially because such an event might even have an impact — possibly negative — throughout our entire galaxy.

Scientists release first image from Hubble in one-gyro mode

First Hubble image in one-gyro mode
Click for original image.

The Hubble science team today released the first image from the Hubble Space Telescope produced in its new one-gyro mode.

That image it so the right, cropped, reduced, and sharpened to post here, and shows NGC 1546, a nearby galaxy in the constellation Dorado about 52 million light years away. The inset shows at full resolution the small red galaxy near the top, to give some sense of the telescope’s capabilities in this one-gyro mode.

The details astonish me, and prove my pessimism about this new mode to have been wrong. I expected future images to be more fuzzy, with Hubble’s ability to take sharp images largely limited. The resolution here is excellent, and bodes well for future science observations.

Nonetheless, the telescope is still working under major limitations:

Although one-gyro mode is an excellent way to keep Hubble science operations going, it does have limitations, which include a small decrease in efficiency (roughly 12 percent) due to the added time required to slew and lock the telescope onto a science target.

As previously noted, prior to the use of the fine guidance sensors, fixed head star trackers position Hubble’s pointing closer to the target. If Earth or the moon block two of the fixed head star trackers’ fields of view, Hubble must move further along in its orbit until the star trackers can see the sky and its stars again. This process encroaches upon science observation time. Second, the additional time the fine guidance sensors take to further search for the guide stars adds to the total time the sensors use to complete the acquisition.

Third, in one-gyro mode Hubble has some restrictions on the science it can do. For example, Hubble cannot track moving objects that are closer to Earth than the orbit of Mars. Their motion is too fast to track without the full complement of gyros. Additionally, the reduced area of sky that Hubble can point to at any given time also reduces its flexibility to see transient events or targets of opportunity like an exploding star or an impact on Jupiter.

When combined, these factors may yield a decrease in productivity of roughly 20 to 25 percent from the typical observing program conducted in the past using all three gyros.

It really is time for the astronomical community to get its act together and begin work on developing and launching more large optical telescopes into space. Hubble has shown us the potential of in-space optical astronomy. That astronomers have not flocked in the last three decades to build more such telescopes is puzzling beyond belief.

Slovenia becomes 23rd member nation of the European Space Agency

Formerly part of Yugoslavia and largely aligned with the communist bloc during the Cold War, Slovenia has now signed on to become the 23rd member nation of the European Space Agency (ESA).

Slovenia has been working with ESA since 2008, when it signed a first Cooperation Agreement, followed by a European Cooperation Agreement. This cooperation was strengthened with its accession to associate membership in 2016, which it upgraded in 2020 with a new Agreement for an enhanced Association. This included a provision that after its expiration in 2025, Slovenia can apply for ESA membership.

Slovenia’s membership still needs to be ratified, but that is expected.

Increasingly Putin’s invasion of the Ukraine has proven to be incredibly stupid. It has not only trapped Russia in a quagmire that it can’t easily escape, with victory nowhere in sight, it has caused all of its other neighbors to look west, away from Russia, out of fear of getting invaded themselves. Slovenia is just the most recent example.

SpaceX launches 20 Starlink satellites

After a ten day pause in launches, which included one launch abort at T-0, SpaceX yesterday successfully launched 20 Starlink satellites, its Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from Vandenberg in California.

The pause is noteworthy because it is possibly SpaceX’s longest pause in launches this year (I haven’t gone back and checked). Consider this fact: A ten day pause between launches would have once been considered a fast launch pace. Now it seems like something is wrong.

The rocket’s first stage completed its fifth flight, landing on a drone ship in the Pacific.

The leaders in the 2024 launch race:

63 SpaceX (with another launch scheduled for later today)
27 China
8 Russia
7 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise now leads the world combined in successful launches, 73 to 41, while SpaceX by itself leads the entire world, including other American companies, 63 to 51.

1 2 3 1,029